Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lion King Sound Tour

Last weekend, UCI Sound once again took a trip up to Hollywood to visit and tour the sound system of the Lion King national tour. I was really excited to help set this up with Andrew Gorell, a friend of mine from Cleveland (he was an MFA actor when I was in undergrad).

Andrew, who plays Zazu, was able to introduce us to Kevin, the head of sound for the Lion King touring productions.  The evening was a great learning experience for all of us! We heard Kevin's process for tuning his system in just five hours in each city (entirely by ear!), he talked us through how he repurposed the old A/B center cluster and how he utilizes the large number of subwoofers throughout the show, and he talked about some of the more unusual moments in the show that are under his thumb as the sound head - MIDI triggered CO2 cannons, and a 4-1/2 octave marimba with pickups on every bar!  Kevin has been touring with the Lion King for almost a decade, so it was pretty incredible hearing about his experiences!

Thanks to Kevin, Andrew, Vinnie, and the staffs at the Pantages and Lion King for helping put this experience together!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Track & Field

This year, as part of the Trends in Modern Sound Design class, we worked on a project called Track & Field.  Last year, Stephen Swift (MFA '13) oversaw the first version, and this year, we refined it a bit.  Track & Field is based on Layer Tennis, a fun exercise in inspiration and workflow.

In Track & Field, each week, the player is given a 30-second clip of sound (bounced and stems). The player has 60 minutes to transform that piece into something else. They can record, remix, process, loop, crush, reconceive, redevelop, and/or do anything they want. The only hard and fast rules are that the player not take more than 60 minutes to work on the piece and that the piece lasts only 30 seconds. The player then creates a bounce and stems of their work and delivers it to the next player.  Play repeats.

Track & Field is a great exercise for a number of reasons. First, it's great practice for non-linear conceptualization. Also, it encourages the development of efficient workflows. Doing it in the Fall Term gives the students a chance to reconnect after a summer apart, and it gives everyone an opportunity to listen to and learn from each other.

We have six grad students, so we had six different threads.  I developed a rotation scheme so that every student got to work on every thread at least once.  Every week during the term, we listened to the current versions of each thread, and on the last days of class, we listened to each thread straight through, from version 1 to version 9.  It's fascinating to listen to how sonic elements transform through the piece, and how one idea transforms dramatically into another idea.

Here, for your listening enjoyment, are all six threads. Some are crazy rides, and some are confusing. Don't worry about it. Just enjoy the oddball cocktails that the MFA designers made!